Surjeet Bassi is taking Prestige Motors to court over allegations of racial discrimination

50-year old Surjeet Bassi walked into the Prestige Motors Mercedes dealership in Bergen County, New Jersey on June 3, 2016 thinking that he would be able to trade in his Mercedes-Benz ML350 for a Mercedes GLS550. What happened next ended with Bassi filing a lawsuit against the dealership for what his lawyer claims as “blatant racial discrimination.”

According to The Times Herald-Record, the dealership refused to sell him the GLS550 over fears that he might ship the SUV to the Taliban. The report adds that the transaction was going smoothly as Bassi passed a credit check, showed his personal bank statements, paid a $1,000 downpayment, and switched the new GLS into his new policy with his insurance company. Then things took a turn for the bizarre when the dealership’s manager told him that he can’t sell the car because Bassi was from a “high-risk area” where people buy cars and export them to the Islamic fundamentalist and terrorist organization.

The manager wouldn’t budge on his stance despite Bassi arguing that he had lived in the area for 30 years, runs a medical transport company, and has no connection whatsoever with the Taliban. The Indian national even offered to sign a waiver, something he had done before, promising that was not going to export the car for three years. All his pleas ended up being for naught as the dealership’s manager refused to budge on his stance.

Needless to say, Bassi wasn’t going to take the case of discrimination lightly. His attorney, Michael Susan, immediately filed a lawsuit against Prestige Motors in the in the Southern District of New York on the basis of racial discrimination and a refusal to extend credit under the federal Equal Credit Opportunity Act. Prestige Motors has yet to issue a response on the matter.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.

Why it matters

I’ve been trying to piece together a response to this news for a while, and all I could think about was how it must feel to be Surjeet Bassi and the embarrassment that comes with being labeled as someone with ties to the Taliban. Bassi told the Times Herald-Record that he was heartbroken over getting stiffed out of replacing his ML350 for a new GLS550, but I don’t think “heartbroken” even comes close to how he must’ve felt.

I don’t know what the manager of Prestige Motors’ reasons are for not selling Bassi the GLS550 but it is worth noting that Mercedes dealers in the U.S. take these precautions to ensure that the cars they sell are not exported in other countries via black markets. The GL, in particular, is one of those cars that attract attention in the black market of other countries, especially those with high taxes that make it cheaper to buy the car via the proverbial back door. Maybe that’s what the dealership was concerned about, but I still don’t understand why it would basically deem Bassi a Taliban sympathizer on the grounds that he’s from a “high-risk area.”

It’s even more perplexing when you details about Bassi’s life and business revealed no connections whatsoever to the terrorist group. The Times Herald-Record even confirmed that Bassi’s name was not a part of a federal database of those who are banned from exporting items. I think it’s only right that Bassi and his attorney is taking this issue to court. This is not like the case of Preston Henn suing Ferrari because he was denied ownership of the Ferrari LaFerrari Aperta. That was because his ego took a hit. This is a form of discrimination that should not be tolerated in any environment.

It’s especially more important these days when the whole country, it seems, is a tipping point on how it wants to decide its fate for the future. I know that’s a far bigger issue than Bassi’s lawsuit against Prestige Motors, but it all ties up to a growing climate of discrimination that needs to be nipped at the bud before it gets any worse. I hope that Prestige Motors airs its side of the story soon and that it can work something out with Surjeet Bassi to make things better for both parties. Nobody’s going to win here if the issue isn’t addressed that leads to an amicable understanding between the two sides.

2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class

2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class here.

Source: Times Herald-Record

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